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I-69 connection staying put, even with higher costs

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Might higher-than-expected costs to build Interstate 69 to Evansville result in a new connecting point to Indianapolis?

That’s what some are wondering now that costs of the controversial project have risen to $3 billion from the $1.7 billion originally projected.

So far, the state is using what it calls “innovative” construction techniques on the southern stretch already under construction and for segments about to be started. These include narrower medians and thinner pavement, Gov. Mitch Daniels said earlier this month. Critics say this could lead to higher maintenance costs later.

The project has drawn strong opposition in places such as Bloomington, for the potential environmental effects, and among those living in Perry Township, in Marion County, where the highway is to tie into I-465 roughly at where State Road 37 now runs.

That’s unless, of course, the Indiana Department of Transportation were to look for a less-populated place to run the highway. Some have suggested moving it west, through less-populated Morgan County, to tie into Interstate 70 near Indianapolis International Airport.  That would potentially reduce land acquisition costs and other aggravations of needling an interstate through Indianapolis’ south side.

So far, at least, INDOT is sticking to its original plans.

A 2003 environmental impact statement established the route through Perry Township, said INDOT spokesman Will Wingfield.

“This alignment was subsequently approved by the Federal Highway Administration in a 2004 Record of Decision and withstood litigation in Federal District Court. INDOT has no plans at this time to reopen” the EIS or ROD, Wingfield said.

Although the stretch between Evansville and Bloomington could be completed as early as 2014, the Indianapolis end would likely be completed much later. The first two miles of I-69 have been completed at the southernmost end, at Interstate 64.

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